Tags Posts tagged with "floods"


Ali Khosronejad in front of the Santa Maria Cathedral, which is considered the first modern cathedral in Madrid.

By Daniel Dunaief

An approaching weather front brings heavy rains and a storm surge, threatening to inundate homes and businesses with dangerous water and potentially undermining critical infrastructure like bridges.

Once officials figure out the amount of water that will affect an area, they can either send out inspectors to survey the exact damage or they can use models that take time to process and analyze the likely damage.

Ali Khosronejad

Ali Khosronejad, Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University, hopes to use artificial intelligence to change that.

Khosronejad recently received $550,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for four years to create a high-fidelity model using artificial intelligence that will predict the flood impact on infrastructure.

The funds, which will be available starting on June 20, will support two PhD students who will work to provide an artificial intelligence-based program that can work on a single laptop at a “fraction of the cost of more advanced modeling approaches,” Khosronejad said during an interview in Madrid, Spain, where he is on sabbatical leave under a Fulbright U.S Senior Scholar Award. He is doing his Fulbright research at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

Stony Brook University will also provide some funding for these students, which will help defray the cost of expenses related to traveling and attending conferences and publishing papers.

In the past, Stony Brook has been “quite generous when it comes to supporting graduate students working on federally funded projects,” Khosronejad explained and he hopes that continues with this research.

Khosronejad and his students will work with about 50 different flooding and terrain scenarios, which will cover about 95 percent of extreme flooding. These 50 possibilities will cover a range of waterways, infrastructure, topography, and coastal areas. The researchers will feed data into their high fidelity supercomputing cluster simulations to train artificial intelligence to assess the likely damage from a flood.

As they build the model, Khosronejad explained that they will collect data from floods, feed them into the computer and test how well the computer predicts the kind of flooding that has can cause damage or threaten the stability of structures like bridges. Over the next four years, the team will collect data from the Departments of Transportation in California, Minnesota and New York.

Nearly six years ago, his team attempted to use algorithms available in ChatGPT for some of his AI development. Those algorithms, however, didn’t predict flood flow prediction. He tried to develop new algorithms based on convolutional neural networks. Working with CNN, he attempted to improve its capabilities by including some physics-based constraints.

“We are very enthusiastic about this,” Khosronejad said. “We do think that this opportunity can help us to open up the use of AI for other applications in fluid mechanics” in fields such as renewable energy, contaminant transport predictions in urban areas and biological flow predictions, among others.

Planners working with groups such as the California Department of Transportation could use such a program to emphasize which infrastructure might be endangered.

This analysis could highlight effective mitigation strategies. Artificial intelligence can “provide [planners and strategists] with a tool that is not that expensive, can run on a single laptop, can reproduce lots of scenarios with flooding, to figure out which infrastructure is really in danger,” Khosronejad said.

Specifically, this tool could evaluate the impact of extreme floods on bridge foundations. Floods can remove soil from around the foundation of a bridge, which can cause it to collapse. Civil engineers can strengthen bridge foundations and mitigate the effect of future floods by using riprap, which is a layer of large stones.

This kind of program can reduce the reliance on surveying after a flood, which is expensive and sometimes “logistically impossible and unsafe” to monitor areas like the foundations of bridges, Khosronejad said. He plans to build into the AI program an awareness of the changing climate, so that predictions using it in three or five years can provide an accurate reflection of future conditions.

“Floods are getting more and more extreme” he said. “We realize that floods we feed into the program during training will be different” from the ones that will cause damage in subsequent years.

Floods that had a return period of every 100 years are now happening much more frequently. In one or two decades, such a flood might occur every 10 years.

Adding updated data can allow practitioners to make adjustments to the AI program a decade down the road, he suggested. He and his team will add data every year, which will create a more versatile model.

What it can’t do

While the AI programs will predict the damage to infrastructure from floods, they will not address storm or flood predictions.

“Those are different models, based on the movement of clouds” and other variables, Khosronejad said. “This doesn’t do that: if you give the program a range of flood magnitudes, it will tell you what will happen.”

High fidelity models currently exist that can do what Khosronejad is proposing, although those models require hundreds of CPUs to run for five months. Khosronejad has developed his own in house high fidelity model that is capable of making similar predictions. He has tested it to examine various infrastructures and used it to study various flooding events. These models are expensive, which is why he’s trying to replace them with AI to reduce the cost while maintaining fidelity.

AI, on the other hand, can run on a single CPU and may be able to provide the same result, which will allow people to plan ahead before it happens. The NSF approved the single principal investigator concept two months ago.

Khosronejad has worked with Fotis Sotiropoulos, former Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook and current Provost at Virginia Commonwealth University, on this and other projects.

The two have bi-weekly discussions over the weekend to discuss various projects.

Sotiropoulos was “very happy” when Khosronejad told him he received the funds. Although he’s not a part of the project, Sotiropoulos will “provide inputs.”

Sotiropoulos has “deep insights” into fluid mechanics. “When you have him on your side, it always pays off,” Khosronejad said.

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Mill Creek running after Feb. 12 snows. Photo by Kyle Barr

At a Port Jefferson village board meeting Feb. 4, Mayor Margot Garant held up a picture of West Broadway in front of Ecolin Jewelers from March 2, 2018. It’s a panorama of part of the village underwater after the area was hit by winter storm Riley, taken by photographer Craig Smith. 

Though that photo spoke of how the village had once been known as Drowned Meadow, Garant said it was telling that the picture could have been any number of occasions in the past year.

“Unfortunately, this is becoming an all too familiar picture,” Garant said. “We have probably had five or six events since 2018 that caused the three-way intersection to flood … flooding in and around Barnum Avenue is becoming a regular concern.”

“In short, I think it’s going to get worse.”

— Frances Campani

In July 2018, Port Jeff put in an application to New York State for a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant to update the 2013 Waterfront Revitalization Plan, an appendix to the village Comprehensive Plan Update. At the Feb. 4 meeting the board voted to go forward with Port Jefferson-based Campani and Schwarting Architects, who in part submitted for the grant last year, to create a visioning study to address the issue of stormwater runoff, storm surges and future rising tide protection in an effort to resubmit for the grant in July.

The proposed analysis would look at the flooding problem in the harbor, including Main Street and East and West Broadway, what causes it and what is predicted to happen in the next two, five and 10 years.

“In short, I think it’s going to get worse,” said architect Frances Campani. 

In addition, the proposal document for the visioning study states they would study the watershed groundwater flooding problem, including bringing in existing data on stormwater catch basins, the culvert running to the Mill Creek at Village Hall, flooding and ponding at Barnum Avenue and flooding in the area between Wynne Lane and Maple.

While the shoreline and Harborfront Park would be the expected areas of concern, Campani said the most concerning areas are East and West Broadway and the main stormwater drainage line, which partially runs underground and has become overcharged with water in the past. She added another problem could be the amount of asphalt in the village, which unlike dirt cannot absorb any water. In addition, there could be a mention of widening certain parts of Mill Creek to allow more water flow.

“Two things should be studied, certainly the park itself with an eye to flood mitigation and waterfront park design methods to help the uplands areas,” said Campani at the Feb. 4 meeting. “Also the watershed area — it’s so closely linked we should tie them together as a study.”

“A thing that really needs to be looked at is where do you put the water.”

— Larry Lapointe

In September 2018, Port Jefferson was hit with major rains that inundated the village in water, causing people to become trapped in their cars and thousands of dollars in damage to local businesses, especially village staple Theatre Three. In the basement of the venerable theater, waters rose as high as four or five feet. New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he was concerned that such damaging flooding could happen at low tide.

He and other local officials feared what could happen if the same circumstances occurred at high tide.

The visioning study proposal said it would be completed in four months, adding up to a total cost of $9,800.

Village trustee Larry LaPointe said it was important to consider just where the water might go in efforts to drive it away from the village business hub.

“A thing that really needs to be looked at is where do you put the water,” LaPointe said. “How do you get the water to go into places where it’s not interfering with our use of the village?”